Sustainable Fishing Practices

27 May 2021

How the MSC Promotes Sustainable Fishing Practices

Sustainable fishing practices today, ensure food security for tomorrow. It’s that simple. If the environment is not conserved now, then the resources will dwindle and people across the globe will face job and food shortages in future.

It may not seem like a big concern for many, but what about our descendants? Our children and grandchildren, their grandchildren and so forth will also have to eat and earn a living. And that’s why the role of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in certifying fisheries commitment to sustainable fishing practices is so important.

Want to learn more about the MSC, sustainable fishing practices and where the South African fisheries fit in? Then read on to discover what the MSC does to promote sustainable fishing practices and why it’s important to support companies and role-players that have certification as proof of their ongoing commitment to environmental protection, responsible usage of marine resources and ensuring job sustainability.

What does the MSC blue label indicate?

The blue label often seen on processed fish products sold in retail stores is indicative of the MSC stamp of approval. For a fishery to be MSC certified, it must meet specific standards. One is that the stocks from which it’s caught must be sustainable. This means there must be sufficient management in place to ensure that enough stock is available of a particular species and will be in future at the current level of fishing. It also means the fishing practices must not hinder stock recovery if the stock is under pressure.

How is it possible to know the level of fish stock?

Good question. With the ocean not having boundaries similar to that of land boundaries, it’s impossible to track all fish movement. However, scientists do research on the data they receive from fisheries about specific fish populations. They also collect data independently through non-governmental organisations, research groups and conservation groups. Although not all the data can be counted as highly accurate, without data collection, it would not have been possible to get estimates of the fish stock levels. The fisheries that undergo MSC certification may participate in data collection efforts, perform advanced research to ensure available and accurate data, and do their part in protecting fish stocks.

Is over-fishing the only reason for a decline in fish stocks?

No. A natural or man-made disaster can lead to the depletion of a specific marine resource. This can lead to a decline in the fish population dependent on the particular resource. If nothing is done to ensure recovery of the resource and the fish population depending on it, the future of the particular species is endangered. The sad part is that a chain reaction follows. If a population of a specific predator fish is significantly reduced in a part of the ocean, it can open the playing field for another predator to move in. This can cause a severe imbalance as the particular predator can consume much of a specific resource that it can possibly become depleted. What follows is the end of even more marine resources.

Certification as proof of a fishery’s commitment to sustainable fishing practices

There’s the old saying of “it takes a whole village to raise a child”, and when it comes to preserving marine resources for current and future food security, one can say that it takes an entire industry to make it possible. The MSC is not a policing agency. Instead, the certification is simply proof that a fishery industry does all it can to promote healthy fish stocks, responsible by-catch management, and environmental protection.

Participating fisheries must be able to show that the fish populations they target, are healthy, not under pressure, and growing. Part of this entails putting measures in place to minimise the effects of by-catch on particular species. A fishery can put in quotas to limit the catch of a species for a particular season or part of the year to ensure the population can grow. It can also put in measures to protect species reliant on the fish stocks, such as means to prevent birds from being caught up or hurt during the trawling processes. The fishery can limit the number of operators and where trawling can take place.

How does the South African Fisheries stack up in terms of sustainable fishing practices?

The good news is that the South African Demersal Hake Fishery has once again been MSC certified. The Sea Harvest Group, as one of the leading hake trawling companies in the country, adheres to the regulations for sustainable fishing practices and actively takes part in conservation efforts.

What’s your role in this?

When you buy Sea Harvest products and shares or support the Group’s Factory Shops, you support sustainable fishing practices.


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